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Vaccine purchase bill

SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for certifying as urgent a measure which will expedite the procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines to the public.

“Ang panukalang ito ay para mas mapabilis ang pagkuha natin ng sapat, ligtas at epektibong mga bakuna para sa mga Pilipino,” said Go.

“Importante na maisabatas ito sa lalong madaling panahon dahil malaking parte ito ng ating National COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap upang tuloy-tuloy na ang pag-roll-out ng mga bakuna sa ating bansa,” he continued.

Go is a co-author and co-sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2057. Filed February 16, the bill is also authored by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Imee Marcos, Grace Poe, Pia Cayetano, Bong Revilla Jr., Francis Tolentino, Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Manny Pacquiao, Joel Villanueva and Richard Gordon. It is principally sponsored by Senate Committee on Finance Chair Sonny Angara.

SBN 2057 hastens the procurement process by granting local government units the authority to procure vaccines as well as supplementary supplies and services that are necessary for their storage, transport and deployment. The purchases shall be made through multiparty agreements which will include the Department of Health and the relevant supplier.

Under the measure, the procurement, importation, donation, storage, transport, deployment and administration of the vaccines will be exempt from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, donor’s tax, and other fees from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023.

A COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund will also be created to cover all claims and expenses arising from adverse effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. The Fund will be administered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and sourced from the 2021 national budget’s Contingent Fund.

“Handa na kami sa Senado na ipagpatuloy ang pagtalakay nito sa session sa dadarating na Lunes. Since it was certified by the President as urgent, ibig sabihin mas mapapabilis ang pagpasa nito,” Go explained in an interview after personally leading the distribution of assistance to 343 fishers in the Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte also on Thursday.

“Napaka-importante ng bill na ito dahil nagmamadali tayo sa pagbibili natin ng bakuna. Bakuna lang po ang pag-asa natin para unti-unti tayong makabalik sa normal nating pamumuhay. ‘Yun lang ang susi, wala na pong iba,” he stressed.

The Senator likewise thanked President Duterte for issuing a Memorandum Order which grants the Department of Health and the National Task Force against COVID-19 the authority to make advance payments which exceed fifteen percent of the total contract amount.

To boost the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program, the MO also allows LGUs to make advance payments of more than fifteen percent of the contact price, provided they are authorized by the NTF chief implementer.

“Patuloy na nagtutulungan ang Executive at ang Legislative branches para gawin ang lahat ng kailangan upang malampasan ang krisis na ito at matulungan ang ating mga kababayan na makabangon muli,” said Go, who serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Health.

“Panawagan ko po sa mga ahensya at mga LGUs, siguraduhing nagagamit ng wasto ang pondo ng taumbayan. The President has always emphasized that while we are expediting the rollout of vaccines, we must always exercise due diligence and consider the best interests of our people. Especially in times of crisis, every single peso counts,” he reminded.

Following a recent conference call with vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, Go revealed that President Duterte had also directed all concerned authorities to balance urgency with caution by ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

“Napag-usapan namin, bagamat nagmamadali na po ang ating Pangulo sa pagbili ng mga bakuna, pero pinaalala niya na dapat siguraduhing safe at effective po itong mga vaccines na binibili po ng gobyerno ngayon,” he shared.

Go had previously urged his colleagues in the Senate to fast-track the procurement process so everyday workers can return to work in a safe manner. He specifically asked Galvez to coordinate closely with LGUs and prioritize poor Filipinos in addition to medical frontliners.

“It is important that we continue to strengthen further mechanisms towards a whole-of-nation approach in addressing the challenges of the pandemic and uplifting the lives of the people,” said Go.

“The combined bayanihan efforts of the national government, LGUs, and private sector are crucial towards our full recovery,” he emphasized.